Tag Archives: end of year

A Letter to Myself in the Mirror

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As each year passes, I feel like the time goes by faster and faster.  We have 17 school days left – SEVENTEEN! It seems like just yesterday my kinders were walking into the room for the first time.

Earlier this year, I posted about managing a hectic personal schedule with my professional one and my struggles with shifting priorities.  This school year has been wonderfully chaotic, albeit overwhelming at times.  I took on professional responsibilities, married my best friend, lost my wonderful grandmother, and will welcome a bundle of joy this summer.  All of these experiences led to the need for more structure and kicked my OCD into hyperdrive!

One of the items on my full plate this year, has been a literacy class.  My hopes for the class were simple – be a better than usual professional development opportunity and be an addition to my literacy credentials.  “Literacy Beginnings” has been so much more.

Each session, we take time to reflect on new and old learning.  We reflect on things we have tried in our classrooms and shared with our colleagues.  We discuss our successes and our defeats.  It is truly a safe space where we all feel comfortable sharing our true and honest thoughts about education and concerns we have about teaching our children.  For our last class this week, we have been asked to think about all that we have taken and all we will take away from the course.

Throughout this school year, this class has served as a reminder for me.  More times than I’d like to admit I’ve arrived at class with concern or frustration.  I’ve needed the class to lift me up. And yes – some tears have been shed.  I’ve needed that class to remind me, with everything else happening outside of or linear to my teaching, that what I believe and hold true about teaching is valid.  That my passions have merit – even if they are different from someone else’s.

Dear Self,

These are things you KNOW in your heart, mind, and gut to be true:

  • Play is important. The second half of this year has been amazing!  Being fortunate enough to restructure the schedule for a sizable junk of sustained play has helped with their development.  They are blossoming socially and developmentally.  They are using their literacy skills everywhere.  Their love for learning and literacy continues in their play.  They are bringing their literacy into everything.  During this choice time – they are choosing literacy whether it is obvious or not.  They are creating lists in the kitchen center, designing maps and plans in blocks.  They yearn to put pencil, marker, pen, and crayon to paper in the art center.  They create their own story time in the reading center.  Reading is a social activity for them.  It is a way they are connecting with others.  This is so powerful. Enter their play more – the assessment can wait.
  • Meeting a student where he/she is is priority number one.  Taking a child’s age and maturity into account while teaching him is not an excuse.  Pushing for developmental appropriateness for my students creates a positive learning environment.
  • If it frustrates you and them – you’re pushing too hard!  STOP and ask yourself why?  Is it for the benefit of the children or someone else?  I know you feel guilty.  You’ve let others’ opinions seep into your bubble.  You’ve let whispered judgements about your students from people who don’t know what being in your class is like to affect you.  Do not let the pressures you feel push you to push your students before they are ready.  Do not halt their progress by skipping rungs on the ladder.  Do not leave them dangling. Look into your students’ eyes – are they broken?  No!  Fortunately, the excitement is still there as they put letters to match sounds they are hearing in words.  They feel success as they read their sentences to you – sentences they created, rather than copied.  Words they put forth with true effort rather than words that were pulled from them for someone else’s benefit.
  • All gains should be celebrated – even if the gains aren’t “good enough” according to someone else’s standards. Every child has grown – and at a different pace.  Keep in mind the district expectations, but do not let them defeat you.  Your students have a strong foundation that will help them succeed later in their schooling.
  • Continue to surround your students with love and acceptance.  They should feel capable and successful.  They should feel confident in their “expertness” and safe enough to fail.  We all know that success is built on top of failures.  Continue to show them that it is ok.  To take chances. To be brave.
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Filed under Things That Matter

As the pages turn…

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Around this time last year, I posted about ending the year with a BOOK!

This year, I have found myself automatically gravitating toward books that leave the impact of making memories.  At first, it was completely subconscious – I chose a book I love and had not yet read aloud for one reason or the other.  And later that same day, I chose another book.  And the next day another… Looking at the selections – left on my easel for students to enjoy – I realized there was a theme.

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Thoughtlessly, I was plucking books from my shelf that captured my mood – nostalgic, retrospective, idealistic, hopeful, inspired, and that bittersweet feeling of finishing a chapter in life.  Our year is coming to a close – and while summer looms on the horizon filled with trips, family time, and a small moment to breathe – I’m not quite ready. My year has been challenging.  Challenging in all the ways you don’t appreciate at first.  Challenging in all the ways that exhaust you.  Challenging in all the ways that remind you why you love your job. When I’m left without words of my own, I turn to the words of others.

Our last books of school:

Our Tree Named Steve

Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zwiebel and David Catrow

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The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka

someday

Someday by Eileen Spinelli and Rosie Winstead

Unknown

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammel

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Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

For our end of year celebration:

(We read First Day Jitters on the first day)

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Last Day Blues by Julie Danneberg and Judy Love

And some I can’t help but read once again:

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Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow

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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

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Filed under Literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds, Uncategorized

Straddling the line

It is always about this time of the year that I’m trying to remain in one world – the world of today, these last 20 days of school, with these students.

But – my mind always wanders to NEXT year… How can I do things better next year?  Change this arrangement?  Amp up this lesson?  Remember to do this!

I’ve agreed to tutor 2 students over the summer – so I’m also in that planning mode.  Pinterest has become my best friend.  It is always nice to find new ways of reviewing and remediation of the same subject matter.  I even created a separate board for tutoring.

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I’ve also started doing some research for how to better help my struggling readers.  All of my teacher friends know that sometimes – no matter how many tricks we have up our sleeve – we can feel at a loss trying to reach a child where he or she is.  I’ve seen so much growth with my kids this year, and being intrinsically competitive,  I’d like to have more tricks (more growth) for next year.  So I bumped up my latest amazon order to free shipping with this book – I’ll let you know how it is.

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We have moved into survival mode in my classroom and we are trying new things to keep us engaged and following classroom procedures.  We recently starting creating our own daily schedules.  She saw it in another teacher’s classroom and it is great to make this progress with personalized learning.
Check out my mentor’s blog about this:

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http://iteachwithipads.net/2013/05/02/a-matter-of-choice/

I’m so glad we started it!  The students have so much ownership in their schedule and their work.  The students are practicing being first graders by working more independently, and having only one teacher available to help,  while I pull small groups to help or assess for the end of the year.

So if you’re like me -straddling the line between this year and next…
Between days like this

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20130506-183056.jpgFind some inspiration – from a colleague, Pinterest, or just taking Amazon’s recommendation.

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Filed under Lower Grades